Stranded Australian cruise passengers describe 'worst experience of our lives'

US News

An Australian couple who were stranded on an African island after being abandoned by a Norwegian cruise ship have spoken of their ordeal, saying it was “the worst experience of our lives”.

Doug and Violeta Sanders said they had to fend for themselves after the private tour they took during a stop last week on the island of Sao Tome exceeded the time they needed to return to the Norwegian Dawn and they were not allowed to board the ship. Sky News Australia reported.

Doug and Violeta Sanders said the ordeal was “the worst experience of our lives.”

“It was the worst experience of our lives to be abandoned like that in a strange country, not being able to speak the language – it's Portuguese and African,” Violeta told Seven's Sunrise programme.

“We have no money, and our credit cards are not accepted,” she added.

They and six other passengers were not allowed to return to the ship, which sailed without them.

The US Embassy in Angola assisted the stranded passengers and they boarded a flight to Gambia in hopes of joining the ship in Banjul, but it was unable to dock due to low tide and moved to Senegal.

The couple said they had to fend for themselves after they overstayed the time required to return to the Norwegian Don and were not allowed to board the ship.
Christopher Sadowski
Jill and Jay Campbell were “contemplating” not ending their cruise. Jill and Jay Campbell

A Norwegian Cruise Line representative said the passengers were on a private tour, not a tour organized by the company.

“We work closely with local tour operators to ensure trips are planned according to our schedule to ensure timely arrival at the port. The trip this group was on was not organized by us but on our own. As such, we are not in contact with the tour operators their tourist.

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Attorney James Diamond of TWC Lawyers said the “hard and fast rule” is that the ship can depart once the final call is made.

The couple were banned from returning to the cruise ship after they missed their boarding time. Jill and Jay Campbell

“They pay a lot of money for berthing fees and renting the space,” he told the programme. “They have times when they have to leave, and those times are posted and unfortunately, I know that's morally incorrect, but they have the right to leave.”

Among those stranded were Americans Jill and Jay Campbell.

Passengers raced through seven different countries in 48 hours to reach Dakar, Senegal, where they finally returned to the ship, according to Sky News.

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